(NaturalNews) Think you've heard everything about vitamin D? As NaturalNews has reported extensively, deficiencies of this amazing health-protective vitamin have been linked to conditions as diverse as breast cancer, hives, weak bones, obesity and more. But now there's yet another discovery showing how important it is to get enough vitamin D through diet, supplements and adequate sunshine exposure. It turns out that vitamin D is crucial to healthy breathing.
Results of a groundbreaking study just published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine concludes a vitamin D deficiency alters lung growth and decreases lung function. Earlier studies have associated severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans to vitamin D deficiency. But the new research shows a lack of the vitamin can specifically alter lung structure and function -- and it is the first hard evidence linking vitamin D deficiency with deficits in lung function and altered lung structure.
"The results of this study clearly demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency alters lung growth, resulting in lower lung volume and decrements in lung function," Graeme Zosky, PhD, a research fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco, Australia, said in a media statement. "This is the first direct mechanistic evidence showing that vitamin D deficiency alters lung development, which may explain the association between obstructive lung disease and levels of vitamin D."
To carry out the study, the researchers evaluated lung responses of two-week-old mice that were vitamin D deficit and compared them to control mice with adequate vitamin D levels. To investigate what effects vitamin D deficiency might have caused in the growth, structure or function of the lungs, an instrument called a plethysmograph was used to measure the amount of air in the lungs; lung tissue samples were also studied to evaluate changes in lung structure.
"The aim of this study was to determine if vitamin D deficiency results in altered lung function and/or structure as a potential explanation for the association between vitamin D and chronic respiratory disease," said Dr. Zosky, who is an adjunct senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia's Centre for Child Health Research. "Specifically, we aimed to determine if vitamin D deficiency has an influence on lung growth as indicated by a decrease in lung volume. We also wanted to determine if the deficiency alters the mechanical properties of the lung tissue due to changes in the structure of the lung."
The results? Airway resistance was significantly higher while lung volume was significantly lower in vitamin D deficient mice compared to control mice. What's more, examination of specific tissue responses showed the animals lacking in vitamin D had reduced lung function. In addition, lungs in the vitamin D deficient animals were also smaller.
"For the first time, we have demonstrated a direct role for vitamin D in causing decreased lung function in the absence of known confounders such as physical inactivity, confirming the assertion by epidemiological studies that there is a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and lung function," Dr. Zosky said.
"The differences we observed in lung volume and lung mechanics, which were substantial and physiologically relevant, raise serious concerns regarding the increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in communities around the world. The results also raise concerns about the potential this deficiency may have on lung health, and in particular, the potential impact deficiency may have on the susceptibility to obstructive lung disease."
Dr. Zosky has called on the need for future studies to be conducted to determine whether vitamin D deficiency-induced alterations in lung growth increase the severity of obstructive lung disease. In addition, he pointed out that researchers need to identify susceptible populations whose lung health could be protected or improved with vitamin D supplementation.
Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.
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